Mark 3:1
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
III.

(1-6) A man there which had a withered hand.—See Notes on Matthew 12:9-14. St. Mark omits the reference to the sheep fallen into a pit, and, on the other hand, gives more graphically our Lord’s “looking round” with an “anger” which yet had in it a touch as of pitying grief. The form of the Greek participle implies compassion as well as sorrow. St. Mark alone names (Mark 3:6) the Herodians as joining with the Pharisees in their plot for His destruction. On the Herodians, see Notes on Matthew 11:8; Matthew 22:16.

Mark

WORKS WHICH HALLOW THE SABBATH

Mark 2:23 - Mark 2:28
. - Mark 3:1 - Mark 3:5.

These two Sabbath scenes make a climax to the preceding paragraphs, in which Jesus has asserted His right to brush aside Rabbinical ordinances about eating with sinners and about fasting. Here He goes much further, in claiming power over the divine ordinance of the Sabbath. Formalists are moved to more holy horror by free handling of forms than by heterodoxy as to principles. So we can understand how the Pharisees’ suspicions were exacerbated to murderous hate by these two incidents. It is doubtful whether Mark puts them together because they occurred together, or because they bear on the same subject. They deal with the two classes of ‘works’ which later Christian theology has recognised as legitimate exceptions to the law of the Sabbath rest; namely, works of necessity and of mercy.

Whether we adopt the view that the disciples were clearing a path through standing corn, or the simpler one, that they gathered the ears of corn on the edge of a made path as they went, the point of the Pharisees’ objection was that they broke the Sabbath by plucking, which was a kind of reaping. According to Luke, their breach of the Rabbinical exposition of the law was an event more dreadful in the eyes of these narrow pedants; for there was not only reaping, but the analogue of winnowing and grinding, for the grains were rubbed in the disciples’ palms. What daring sin! What impious defiance of law! But of what law? Not that of the Fourth Commandment, which simply forbade ‘labour,’ but that of the doctors’ expositions of the commandment, which expended miraculous ingenuity and hair-splitting on deciding what was labour and what was not. The foundations of that astonishing structure now found in the Talmud were, no doubt, laid before Christ. This expansion of the prohibition, so as to take in such trifles as plucking and rubbing a handful of heads of corn, has many parallels there.

But it is noteworthy that our Lord does not avail Himself of the distinction between God’s commandment and men’s exposition of it. He does not embarrass himself with two controversies at once. At fit times He disputed Rabbinical authority, and branded their casuistry as binding grievous burdens on men; but here He allows their assumption of the equal authority of their commentary and of the text to pass unchallenged, and accepts the statement that His disciples had been doing what was unlawful on the Sabbath, and vindicates their breach of law.

Note that His answer deals first with an example of similar breach of ceremonial law, and then rises to lay down a broad principle which governed that precedent, vindicates the act of the disciples, and draws for all ages a broad line of demarcation between the obligations of ceremonial and of moral law. Clearly, His adducing David’s act in taking the shewbread implies that the disciples’ reason for plucking the ears of corn was not to clear a path but to satisfy hunger. Probably, too, it suggests that He also was hungry, and partook of the simple food.

Note, too, the tinge of irony in that ‘Did ye never read?’ In all your minute study of the letter of the Scripture, did you never take heed to that page? The principle on which the priest at Nob let the hungry fugitives devour the sacred bread, was the subordination of ceremonial law to men’s necessities. It was well to lay the loaves on the table in the Presence, but it was better to take them and feed the fainting servant of God and his followers with them. Out of the very heart of the law which the Pharisees appealed to, in order to spin restricting prohibitions, Jesus drew an example of freedom which ran on all-fours with His disciples’ case. The Pharisees had pored over the Old Testament all their lives, but it would have been long before they had found such a doctrine as this in it.

Jesus goes on to bring out the principle which shaped the instance he gave. He does not state it in its widest form, but confines it to the matter in hand-Sabbath obligations. Ceremonial law in all its parts is established as a means to an end-the highest good of men. Therefore, the end is more important than the means; and, in any case of apparent collision, the means must give way that the end may be secured. External observances are not of permanent, unalterable obligation. They stand on a different footing from primal moral duties, which remain equally imperative whether doing them leads to physical good or evil. David and his men were bound to keep these, whether they starved or not; but they were not bound to leave the shew bread lying in the shrine, and starve.

Man is made for the moral law. It is supreme, and he is under it, whether obedience leads to death or not. But all ceremonial regulations are merely established to help men to reach the true end of their being, and may be suspended or modified by his necessities. The Sabbath comes under the class of such ceremonial regulations, and may therefore be elastic when the pressure of necessity is brought to bear.

But note that our Lord, even while thus defining the limits of the obligation, asserts its universality. ‘The Sabbath was made for man’-not for a nation or an age, but for all time and for the whole race. Those who would sweep away the observance of the weekly day of rest are fond of quoting this text; but they give little heed to its first clause, and do not note that their favourite passage upsets their main contention, and establishes the law of the Sabbath as a possession for the world for ever. It is not a burden, but a privilege, made and meant for man’s highest good.

Christ’s conclusion that He is ‘Lord even of the Sabbath’ is based upon the consideration of the true design of the day. If it is once understood that it is appointed, not as an inflexible duty, like the obligation of truth or purity, but as a means to man’s good, physical and spiritual, then He who has in charge all man’s higher interests, and who is the perfect realisation of the ideal of manhood, has full authority to modify and suspend the ceremonial observance if in His unerring judgment the suspension is desirable.

This is not an abrogation of the Sabbath, but, on the contrary, a confirmation of the universal and merciful appointment. It does not give permission to keep or neglect it, according to whim or for the sake of amusement, but it does draw, strong and clear, the distinction between a positive rite which may be modified, and an unchangeable precept of the moral law which it is better for a man to die than to neglect or transgress.

The second Sabbath scene deals with the same question from another point of view. Works of necessity warranted the supercession of Sabbath law; works of beneficence are no breaches of it. There are circumstances in which it is right to do what is not ‘lawful’ on the Sabbath, for such works as healing the man with a withered hand are always ‘lawful.’

We note the cruel indifference to the sufferer’s woe which so characteristically accompanies a religion which is mainly a matter of outside observances. What cared the Pharisees whether the poor cripple was healed or no? They wanted him cured only that they might have a charge against Jesus. Note, too, the strange condition of mind, which recognised Christ’s miraculous power, and yet considered Him an impious sinner.

Observe our Lord’s purpose to make the miracle most conspicuous. He bids the man stand out in the midst, before all the cold eyes of malicious Pharisees and gaping spectators. A secret espionage was going on in the synagogue. He sees it all, and drags it into full light by setting the man forth and by His sudden, sharp thrust of a question. He takes the first word this time, and puts the stealthy spies on the defensive. His interrogation may possibly be regarded as having a bearing on their conduct, for there was murder in their hearts {Mark 2:6}. There they sat with solemn faces, posing as sticklers for law and religion, and all the while they were seeking grounds for killing Him. Was that Sabbath work? Whether would He, if He cured the shrunken arm, or they, if they gathered accusations with the intention of compassing His death, be the Sabbath-breakers?

It was a sharp, swift cut through their cloak of sanctity; but it has a wider scope than that. The question rests on the principle that good omitted is equivalent to evil committed. If we can save, and do not, the responsibility of loss lies on us. If we can rescue, and let die, our brother’s blood reddens our hands. Good undone is not merely negative. It is positive evil done. If from regard to the Sabbath we refrained from doing some kindly deed alleviating a brother’s sorrow, we should not be inactive, but should have done something by our very not doing, and what we should do would be evil. It is a pregnant saying which has many solemn applications.

No wonder that they ‘held their peace.’ Unless they had been prepared to abandon their position, there was nothing to be said. That silence indicated conviction and obstinate pride and rooted hatred which would not be convinced, conciliated, or softened. Therefore Jesus looked on them with that penetrating, yearning gaze, which left ineffaceable remembrances on the beholders, as the frequent mention of it indicates.

The emotions in Christ’s heart as He looked on the dogged, lowering faces are expressed in a remarkable phrase, which is probably best taken as meaning that grief mingled with His anger. A wondrous glimpse into that tender heart, which in all its tenderness is capable of righteous indignation, and in all its indignation does not set aside its tenderness! Mark that not even the most rigid prohibitions were broken by the process of cure. It was no breach of the fantastic restrictions which had been engrafted on the commandment, that Jesus should bid the man put out his hand. Nobody could find fault with a man for doing that. These two things, a word and a movement of muscles, were all. So He did ‘heal on the Sabbath,’ and yet did nothing that could be laid hold of.

But let us not miss the parable of the restoration of the maimed and shrunken powers of the soul, which the manner of the miracle gives. Whatever we try to do because Jesus bids us, He will give us strength to do, however impossible to our unaided powers it is. In the act of stretching out the hand, ability to stretch it forth is bestowed, power returns to atrophied muscles, stiffened joints are suppled, the blood runs in full measure through the veins. So it is ever. Power to obey attends on the desire and effort to obey.Mark 3:1-5. He entered again into the synagogue — Luke says, On another sabbath. The synagogue seems not to have been at Capernaum, but in some city which lay in his way as he went through Galilee. And there was a man which had a withered hand — His hand was not only withered, but contracted, as appears from Mark 3:5. See the notes on Matthew 12:10-13. And they — The scribes and Pharisees, watched him — These men, being ever unfriendly to the Saviour, carefully attended to every thing he said and did, with an expectation of finding some matter of blame in him, by which they might blast his reputation with the people. Their pride, anger, and shame, after being so often put to silence, began now to ripen into malice. Luke observes, He knew their thoughts, their malicious designs. We may therefore see, in this instance, the greatness of our blessed Lord’s courage, who resolutely performed the benevolent action he had undertaken, notwithstanding he knew it would expose him to the fiercest resentment of these wicked men. And said to the man, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. He ordered him to stand forth and show himself to the congregation, that the sight of his distress might move them to pity him; and that they might be the more sensibly struck with the miracle, when they observed the wasted hand restored to perfect soundness in an instant. Then Jesus said, Is it lawful to do good, &c. — That he might expose the malice and superstition of these scribes and Pharisees, he appealed to the dictates of their own minds, whether it was not more lawful to do good on the sabbath days, than to do evil; to save life, than to kill. He meant, more lawful for him to save men’s lives, than for them to plot his death without the least provocation. But it is justly observed here by Dr. Campbell, that in the style of Scripture, the mere negation of any thing is often expressed by the affirmation of the contrary. Thus, Luke 14:26, not to love, or even to love less, is called, to hate; Matthew 11:25. not to reveal, is to hide; and here, not to do good, when we can, is to do evil; not to save, is to kill. From this, and many other passages of the New Testament, it may be justly deduced, as a standing principle of Christian ethics, that not to do the good which we have the opportunity and power to do, is, in a certain degree, the same as to do the contrary evil; and not to prevent mischief, when we can, the same as to commit it. Thus, also, Dr. Whitby: “Hence, it seems to follow, that he who doth not do good to his neighbour when he can, doth evil to him; it being a want of charity, and therefore evil, to neglect any opportunity of doing good, or showing kindness to any man in misery; and that not to preserve his life when it is in danger, is to transgress that precept which saith, Thou shalt not kill.” Our Lord’s words contained a severe, but just rebuke, which in the present circumstances must have been sensibly felt. Yet these men, pretending not to understand his meaning, held their peace — Being confounded, though not convinced, therefore he answered them with an argument which the dulness of stupidity could not possibly overlook, nor the peevishness of cavilling gainsay: What man that shall have one sheep, &c. — See on Matthew 12:11. Having uttered these convincing arguments and cutting reproofs, he looked round about on them, (Luke, on them all,) with anger, grieved at the hardness of their hearts — Showing at once his indignation at their wickedness, and his grief for their impenitence. See on Matthew as above. He knew his arguments did not prevail with them, because they were resisting the convictions of their own minds; and was both angry at their obstinacy, and grieved on account of the consequences of it; showing these just affections of his righteous spirit by his looks, that if possible an impression might be made either on them or on the spectators. He might in this, likewise, propose to teach us the just regulation of the passions and affections of our nature, which are not sinful in themselves, otherwise he who was without sin could not have been subject to them. The evil of them lies in their being excited by wrong objects, or by right objects in an improper degree. Thus Dr. Whitby:

“Hence we learn that anger is not always sinful; this passion being found in him in whom was no sin. But then it must be noted, that anger is not properly defined by philosophers, ορεξις αντιλυπησεως, a desire of revenge, or, of causing grief, to him who hath provoked or hath grieved us; for this desire of revenge is always evil; and though our Saviour was angry with the Pharisees for the hardness of their hearts, yet had he no desire to revenge this sin upon them, but had a great compassion for them, and desire to remove this evil.” Mr. Scott, who quotes a part of the above note properly adds, “Our Lord’s anger was not only not sinful, but it was a holy indignation, a perfectly right state of heart, and the want of it would have been a sinful defect. It would show a want of filial respect and affection for a son to hear, without emotion, his father’s character unjustly aspersed. Would it not, then, be a want of due reverence for God, to hear his name blasphemed, without feeling and expressing an indignant disapprobation? Vengeance belongs to the ruler exclusively; and he may grieve at the necessity imposed on him of thus expressing his disapprobation of crimes; but it is his duty. Eli ought to have shown anger as well as grief when informed of the vile conduct of his sons; and to have expressed it by severe coercive measures. Thus parents and masters, as well as magistrates, may sin, in not feeling and expressing just displeasure against those under their care: and anger is only sinful when it springs from selfishness and malevolence; when causeless, or above the cause; and when expressed by unhallowed words and actions.”3:1-5 This man's case was piteous; he had a withered hand, which disabled him from working for his living; and those that are so, are the most proper objects of charity. Let those be helped that cannot help themselves. But stubborn infidels, when they can say nothing against the truth, yet will not yield. We hear what is said amiss, and see what is done amiss; but Christ looks at the root of bitterness in the heart, the blindness and hardness of that, and is grieved. Let hard-hearted sinners tremble to think of the anger with which he will look upon them shortly, when the day of his wrath comes. The great healing day now is the sabbath, and the healing place the house of prayer; but the healing power is of Christ. The gospel command is like that recorded here: though our hands are withered, yet, if we will not stretch them out, it is our own fault that we are not healed. But if we are healed, Christ, his power and grace, must have all the glory.See this explained in Matthew 12:9-13.CHAPTER 3

Mr 3:1-12. The Healing of a Withered Hand on the Sabbath Day, and Retirement of Jesus to Avoid Danger. ( = Mt 12:9-21; Lu 6:6-11).

See on [1411]Mt 12:9-21.Mark 3:1-5 Christ appealing to reason healeth the withered hand

on the sabbath day.

Mark 3:6-12 The Pharisees conspire his death: he retires to the

seaside, and healeth many.

Mark 3:13-19 He chooseth his twelve apostles.

Mark 3:20-21 His friends look upon him as beside himself.

Mark 3:22-30 He confutes the blasphemous absurdity of the Pharisees

in ascribing his casting out of devils to the power of

Beelzebub.

Mark 3:31-35 Those who do the will of God he regardeth as his

nearest relations.

Ver. 1-5. See Poole on "Matthew 12:9", and following verses to Matthew 12:13. The word pwrwsei, used Mark 3:5, may be understood to signify blindness, or hardness, as it may derive from pwrov, callus, or pwrov, caecus, but the derivation of it from the former best obtains. Hardness being a quality in a thing by which it resisteth our touch, and suffers us not to make an impression upon it, that ill condition of the soul by which it becomes rebellious, and disobedient to the will of God revealed, so as it is not affected with it, nor doth it make any impression of faith or holiness upon the soul, is usually called hardness of heart. But for the argument of this history, proving acts of mercy lawful on the sabbath day, it is fully spoken to in the notes on Matthew 12:9-13.

And he entered again into the synagogue,.... Perhaps in Capernaum, where he had before cast out the unclean spirit; but not on the same day, nor on that day he had had the debate with the Pharisees, about his disciples plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath day; but on another sabbath, perhaps the next; see Luke 6:6.

And there was a man there which had a withered hand; who came there either for a cure, knowing Christ to be in the synagogue, or for the sake of worship; See Gill on Matthew 12:10.

And {1} he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a {a} withered hand.

(1) Thirdly, because they preferred the ceremonial law (which was but an addition to the moral law) before the moral law, whereas in reality they should have learned from this the true use of the ceremonial law.

(a) That is, unprofitable and dead.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Mark 3:1-6. See on Matthew 12:9-14; comp. Luke 6:6-11. The brief, vividly and sharply graphic account of Mark is in Matthew partly abridged, partly expanded.

πάλιν] see Mark 1:21.

εἰς τ. συναγωγήν] at Capernaum. See Mark 2:15.

ἐξηραμμένην] “non ex utero, sed morbo aut vulnere; haec vis participii,” Bengel. More indefinitely Matthew (and Luke): ξηράν.

παρετηροῦντο] of hostile observing, spying (comp. Luke 6:7, al.; Polyb. xvii. 3. 2 : ἐνεδρεύειν καὶ παρατηρεῖν), which, however, is implied, not in the middle, but in the context.

Mark 3:3 ff. ἔγειρε εἰς τ. μέσον] arise (and step forth) into the midst. Comp. Luke 6:8.

ἀγαθοποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι] to act well (Tob 12:13), or to act ill (Sir 19:25). Comp. καλῶς ποιεῖν, Matthew 12:12; Ep. ad Diogn. 4 : God does not hinder καλόν τι ποιεῖν on the Sabbath day. The alternative must be such that the opponents cannot deny the former proposition, and therefore must be dumb. On this account it is not to be explained: to render a benefit (1Ma 11:33), or to inflict an injury (Erasmus, Bengel, Beza, de Wette, Bleek, and others); for the former might be relatively negatived on account of the Sabbath-laws, the observance of which, however, could not be opposed to the idea of acting well (i.e. in conformity with the divine will). We can only decide the question on this ground, not from the usus loquendi, which in fact admits of either explanation. The reading in D: τι ἀγαθὸν ποιῆσαι, is a correct gloss of the late Greek word (Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 200), comp. 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:6; 3 John 1:11.

ψυχὴν σῶσαι] to rescue a soul, that it be not transferred to Hades, but, on the contrary, the man may be preserved in life. Comp. Mark 8:35, often also among Greek writers. This likewise could not be denied, for “periculum vitae pellit sabbatum,” Joma, f. 84, 2. See the passages in Wetstein, ad Matthew 12:10.

ἀποκτεῖναι] to be taken by itself, not to be connected with ψυχήν. At the foundation of the question of Jesus lies the conclusion from the general to the special; He carries the point in question about the Sabbath healings back to the moral category, in consequence of which a negative answer would be absurd. The adversaries feel this; but instead of confessing it they are silent, because they are hardened.

συλλυπού μενος] feeling compassion over, etc., Herod. ix. 94, vi. 39; Polyb. vii. 3. 2; Aelian, V. H. vii. 3. Anger and compassion alternated. The preposition denotes not the emotion of the heart collectively, but the fellowship, into which the heart enters, with the misfortune (in this case moral) of the persons concerned. Comp. Plato, Pol. v. p. 462 E.

ἀπεκατεστάθη] with double augment (Winer, p. 67 [E. T. 84]) is, in accordance with Lachmann, to be read. Comp. on Matthew 12:13.

Mark 3:6. εὐθέως κ.τ.λ.] “crevit odium,” Bengel. They instituted a consultation, in order that, etc. Comp. on Matthew 22:5. That the Herodians are introduced into this place erroneously from Matthew 22:16 (see in loc.) is not to be maintained (de Wette, Baur, Hilgenfeld). The sensation produced by the working of Jesus (see Mark 3:7-8) was sufficiently fitted to induce their being now drawn by the Pharisees into the hostile effort. Hence the mention of them here is no meaningless addition (Köstlin).Mark 3:1-6. The withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14, Luke 6:6-11).Ch. Mark 3:1-6. The Man with the Withered Hand

1. And he entered] The narrative of St Mark here is peculiarly vivid and pictorial. He places the scene actually before us and relates it very much in the present tense. The incident occurred at Capernaum, and probably on the next Sabbath. See Luke 6:6.

a withered hand] It is characteristic of the physician St Luke that he tells us it was his “right hand.” It was probably not merely paralysed in the sinews, but dried up and withered, the result of a partial atrophy. Comp. 1 Kings 13:4, for the parallel case of Jeroboam. Such a malady, when once established, is incurable by any human art.Mark 3:1. Πάλιν, again) on another Sabbath [which preceded the feast of the Passover by eight days.—Harm. p. 309]. Luke 6:6).[23]—ἐξηραμμένην, withered) not from the womb, but through disease or a wound. This is the force of the participle.[24]

[23] εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν, into the synagogue) What an amount of wickedness is there not introduced into holy assemblages, and perpetrated in them!—V. g.

[24] As distinguished from the adjective ξηράν, had it been used.—ED. Mark groups together, in ch.1, those acts to which Jesus’ adversaries made no opposition: he then also joins together those which they assailed, in ch. 2; until, goaded on by hatred, they began laying plots for our Lord. The method of Luke is the same.—V. g.Verse 1. - He entered again into the synagogue. St. Matthew (Matthew 12:9) says, "their synagogue" (εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν) This would probably be on the next sabbath after that named at the close of the last chapter. And there was a man there which had a withered hand (ἐξηραμμένην ἔχων τὴν χεῖρα); literally, which had his hand withered, or dried up. And they watched him (παρετήρουν αὐτὸν); kept watching him. There were probably scribes sent for this purpose from Jerusalem. St. Jerome informs us that in an apocryphal Gospel in use amongst the Nazarenes and Ebionites, the man whose hand was withered is described as a mason, and is said to have asked for help in the following terms: - "I was a mason, seeking my living by manual labour. I beseech thee, Jesus, to restore me the use of my hand, that I may not be compelled to beg my bread." This is so far consistent with St. Mark's description (ἐξηραμμένην ἔχων τὴν χεῖρα) as to show that the malady was the result of disease or accident, and not congenital. St. Luke (Luke 6:6) informs us that it was the right hand. The disease probably extended through the whole arm according to the wider meaning of the Greek word It seems to have been a kind of atrophy, causing a gradual drying up of the limb; which in such a condition was beyond the reach of any mere human skill. A withered hand (ἐξηραμμένην τὴν χεῖρα)

More correctly Rev., his hand withered. The participle indicates that the withering was not congenital, but the result of accident or disease. Luke says his right hand.

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